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Amy is a Board Certified Family Health Nurse Practitioner (FNP) with over 15 years of experience working in Hospital Medicine, Urgent Care and Primary Care practices. Amy graduated Thomas Jefferson University with high distinction earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008, a Master of Science in Nursing in 2010 and a Post Master's Certificate in Adult Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) in 2014. She was recognized by the Elite American Nurses Association in 2013 for her dedication, achievements and leadership in the field Nursing. She served as a clinical preceptor for a number of Nurse Practitioner students and enjoys teaching the bright minds of future NPs.
Antibiotics are one of the most commonly prescribed medications, and OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen are a medicine cabinet staple, but is it safe to take ibuprofen with antibiotics?
The short answer is that, yes, it is usually safe to take ibuprofen with antibiotics. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that there are hundreds of antibiotics, and not all of them might interact as well with ibuprofen as others. To be safe, it’s always recommended to talk to your doctor about what drugs are safe together. Let’s discuss why.
Table of Contents
- What Is Ibuprofen?
- What Are Antibiotics?
- Can You Take Ibuprofen While on Antibiotics?
- What Pain Medication Can You Take with Antibiotics, and What Should You Avoid?
- Key Takeaways
What Is Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) typically taken to relieve pain, swelling, tenderness, and stiffness. You may also recognize it by the name Advil. Those who take it may have rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and menstrual pain. It can also be taken to reduce fevers and relieve minor aches and pains from muscle aches, headaches, the common cold, backaches, and toothaches.
As an NSAID, ibuprofen works by stopping the body’s production of inflammatory markers responsible for fever, pain, and inflammation.
Ibuprofen can come as a prescription but is also available over the counter and can come as a tablet or liquid suspension. When taken to relieve pain, it is often taken every 4 to 6 hours.
What Are Antibiotics?
Antibiotics are a class of medicines used to fight bacterial infections. They work by interfering with the bacteria’s growth or killing it directly. They come in multiple formats, including topical creams, oral tablets, capsules, or liquid, or even through an injection or intravenous (IV) infusion. However, these last two cases are generally reserved only for serious infections.
Antibiotics treat a range of bacterial infections, including:
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- strep throat
- E. coli
- whooping cough
- skin infections
Each antibiotic has its own set of bacterial strains that it is effective against.
Can You Take Ibuprofen While on Antibiotics?
Unfortunately, this question does not have a cut-and-dry answer because the type of antibiotic you are taking will dictate if it is safe to take ibuprofen at the same time. Let’s discuss why that is.
As we know, there are hundreds of different antibiotics, and they all treat different types of bacteria because of their mechanism of action, or the way in which they attack the bacteria. Some interfere with the bacteria’s cell wall, while others kill the bacteria directly.
However, another thing to remember is that some antibiotics only work in specific scenarios or parts of the body. For example, nitrofurantoin concentrates inside the urinary tract, which is why it is most effective for treating urinary tract infections and would be ineffective at treating a lung infection.
Knowing that different antibiotics are aimed at treating infections in certain parts of the body also means that their side effects can vary, which is important when gauging their safety with ibuprofen. For instance, ibuprofen can be toxic to the kidneys in some patients, so an antibiotic that affects the kidneys can interact with ibuprofen and cause additional problems.
Additionally, as an NSAID, ibuprofen can increase the risk of bleeding. Some antibiotics may also cause an increase in bleeding risk, so taking ibuprofen on top of it can be dangerous.
Of note, taking ibuprofen with antibiotics is not usually a problem. Still, it is always best to check by asking your healthcare provider to perform a drug interaction screen, which compares the side effects of the two drugs and determines if they are safe to take together.
If you decide to take ibuprofen while on your antibiotic, note if your symptoms worsen while taking them, which may show a drug interaction or that the ibuprofen is making your antibiotic less effective.
What Pain Medication Can You Take with Antibiotics, and What Should You Avoid?
Other common painkillers, in addition to ibuprofen and Advil, include Tylenol and aspirin. However, these drugs also have side effects that may overlap with the side effects of your antibiotic. For example, acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol, can increase the risk of gingival bleeding, especially if taken with certain antibiotics.
Furthermore, some evidence suggests that taking aspirin with certain antibiotics may alter your gut bacteria levels, making the aspirin less effective and causing side effects. As such, scientists generally advise against taking aspirin and antibiotics such as amoxicillin at the same time.
It is generally considered safe to take antibiotics and painkillers together, but check with your doctor first to check your specific situation.
What Other Medication Should You Avoid with Antibiotics?
Several everyday drugs and supplements can interact with antibiotics and will all be listed on your drug’s label.
Best practices include informing your doctor of all drugs, supplements, and vitamins you take so they can prescribe you an effective antibiotic that won’t interact with them or advise you on what supplements/vitamins to discontinue while taking the antibiotic.
For example, those taking amoxicillin, a common broad-spectrum antibiotic, should be wary of taking blood thinners or kidney medications such as Lopurin.
As for other drugs that should be avoided while on antibiotics, it generally depends on the drug class the antibiotic belongs to. For example, penicillins should not be taken with methotrexate, a drug used to treat psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, and fluoroquinolones don’t mix well with cyclosporine, steroids, and tricyclic antidepressants, among other drugs.
Your doctor and pharmacist are the best sources of information for what is safe to take together.
What pain reliever can I take with antibiotics?
All over-the-counter pain relievers are generally considered safe to take while on antibiotics. Still, it is recommended to speak with your doctor so they can look at your specific situation.
Can I take ibuprofen and amoxicillin together?
Ibuprofen and amoxicillin can be taken together, although the risk of bleeding can be higher when combining these medications.
Ibuprofen is a type of pain reliever available through both a prescription or over-the-counter. Even though it can be obtained OTC, it is still important to know which drugs it should not be combined with, including if it is safe to take ibuprofen with antibiotics.
There are hundreds of antibiotics, which means the specifics can vary for each one, but it is generally safe to take ibuprofen with antibiotics. However, some antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones, don’t mix well with NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, so finding another method of pain relief may be worthwhile.
The best option is to discuss with a doctor if ibuprofen is safe to take with your prescribed antibiotic and if there are any other drug interactions you should be aware of.
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- Ibuprofen: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (2023). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682159.html
- Ibuprofen – Alcohol and Drug Foundation. (2023). https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/ibuprofen/
- Ngo VTH, Bajaj T. Ibuprofen. [Updated 2023 May 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542299/
- Akhavan BJ, Khanna NR, Vijhani P. Amoxicillin. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482250/
- Patel P, Wermuth HR, Calhoun C, et al. Antibiotics. [Updated 2023 May 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535443/
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